“Giddy up”

 

That was my buddy Clint talking to me as I dawdled at the aid station.   He was standing around waiting on me as I guzzled yet another cup of some electrolyte enhanced beverage, trying to cool myself off in the 95+ degree temps last year at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k.     We were at mile 15, nearly the halfway point, and he was practically dragging me along.   Had Clint not been there, I probably would have pooped out right there. But I stood up, grabbed a big cup of ice and trotted off behind him as we headed back out onto the trail.

Within the next hour, I had told Clint to just go on without me.  I was spent and I felt like a boat anchor behind him.  Kudos to him for hanging back with me as long as he did, but I couldn’t bear to hold him back any longer.  I told him I was quitting, and I have every intention of doing just that.  Reluctantly, he jogged away from me as I practically stumbled to the aid station at mile 18.

Once there, I crumpled to the ground next to the ambulance and just let go.  An EMT came over to me, gave me a big bottle of water and put an back of ice on the back of my neck.  “you’re done for today” she said.   I sobbed.

Sometimes, you show up with the best you’ve got and it’s just not enough.   That’s okay.  You take it as a learning experience and you come back another day, leaner, strong, wiser.  But then there are other days.  Days where it’s not about not having enough, it’s about getting beat down.   It’s about getting bitch slapped and kicked when you’re down.  As I sat there with the cold back of ice melting down my back and the towel over my head, I felt like I was just on the losing end of an ass-kicking contest.

After about an hour, a bus had shown up to take me and the other folks who had dropped out of the race back to the finishing area.  They started lining up as the bus opened its doors and, one by one, they tore off their race numbers and handed them to the person loading them up.   I looked over this group, most still wearing their muddy trail shoes, draped in solar blankets and waiting their turn to load into the bus that would shepherd them back, I could help but be reminded of a picture of refugees I once saw.   I don’t what it was about that imagery that was conjured in my head, but as they came over to collect my race number, I suddenly had a change of heart.

I was reminded of a quote from Rocky that seemed to stick with me and was appropriate for this situation:

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

And  I took off the ice bags, took another couple bottles of water, and told them I no longer wished to quit.   After pleading my case for a few minutes, they finally agreed to let back on the course.

And for a while, I seriously started to regret my decision to start running again.   But I walked, I stumbled and I kept on going.  I kept hydrating and stopping at aid stations and eventually I found another runner who was having her own kind of trouble.   So I grabbed her and together we toughed out the last few miles together.  And as we rounded the corner near the finish line, I looked over to her and said “Giddy up!” and we ran out the last few hundred feet as fast as we could.

 

Tomorrow I return to the North Face Endurance Challenge, without my friend Clint, who’s now living with his wife in Austria. Instead, I’ll be with my good buddy and training partner Dave, who will be running his first ever ultra marathon.    And though Clint won’t be there to pull us along, I know when the going starts getting tough, a little “giddy up” will get us moving again.

 

 

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